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Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, November 2009

Prokofiev’s War and Peace was impressively performed at the Paris Opera in 2000. Everyone in the huge cast sings strongly, with the Americans Nathan Gunn (Prince André) and Robert Brubaker (Pierre) worthy of special mention, as are Olga Guryakova (Natasha) and Anatoli Kotcherga (Field Marshal Kutuzov). Gary Bertini paces the work splendidly. Prokofiev and his wife adapted Tolstoy’s epic novel into thirteen scenes (seven devoted to peace, six to war). The composer later replaced the comparatively weak overture with a choral “epilog” that is printed at the beginning of the score, but in this performance is logically placed between the peace and war scenes. The opera was started just weeks before the Germans invaded Russia; patriotic arias and choruses were in order, although it is difficult to imagine what the composer would have done with the war scenes instead. The “peace” scenes are graceful, with dances (an especially haunting waltz) and love music, but also dramatic music depicting Natasha’s near-abduction. The war scenes are somewhat less inspired, although there is a marvelous scene with Napoleon and Kutuzov has great arias. The twelfth scene portrays André, mortally wounded, with Natasha nursing him until he dies. The music refers to the “peace” scenes where they fell in love. Critical opinion holds that this scene is weak because of the power of the “war” scenes that preceded it; TC disagrees, finding it very moving, musically and dramatically. The work, perhaps, is too sprawling (this performance lasts 210 minutes) to be a great dramatic opera, but it certainly maintains the epic qualities of the novel, quite a feat for even a composer as skilled as Prokofiev. The production is brilliant and clearly reflects the action. Sound (all three formats) and video are excellent. There are 80 minutes of fascinating bonuses about the making of the DVD.



Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, November 2009

A millennial celebration clearly intended to flaunt the capacities of the Paris National Opera, it more than lived up to the demands of the occasion.

Guryakova, making her Paris Opera debut—and, simultaneously, her debut in any work by Prokofiev—is a magnificent Natasha. She’s a bit strained at the very beginning, but she’s increasingly nuanced as the performance moves on: radiant at the scene 2 ball, heartbreakingly embarrassed by Prince Bolkonsky’s rudeness in scene 3, and reaching her interpretive peak in scene 6. …Despair, bravado, confusion, frustration, disbelief—Guryakova so poignantly captures the psychological conflict that Natasha’s suicide attempt, which can seem abrupt, here emerges as the natural climax of the scene.

Nathan Gunn is equally impressive as Andrei—and, as is made clear during his trajectory from recollection to despair to exaltation in the opening scene, he is equally attuned to the emotional twists and turns of his part. Robert Brubaker makes an excellent Pierre, bringing out both his awkwardness and (especially in his confrontation with Anatol) his underlying strength. The smaller parts, many of which are doubled, are consistently cast as well, with Mikhail Kit making an especially strong impression as Natasha’s father, and Vassili Gerello bringing out Napoleon’s underlying instability with tremendous subtlety. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review



Kevin Filipski
Times Square, May 2009

Prokofiev’s mammoth masterpiece War and Peace receives a hit-or-miss Paris production in 2000 by director Francesca Zambello, highlighted by the composer’s awesomely dramatic music and a terrific cast led by Nathan Gunn, Mikhail Kit and Olga Guryakova (lone extra: two-part, 80-minute “making-of” documentary).





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